Authentic Wisdom: Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain
~ 02 November 2004 ~
Recipe for a Creative Workspace
After hiring my first employee a couple months back I was in desperate need of a new desk that could seat the two of us comfortably. The style of desk I was looking for ending up being close to $3,000. About $2,800 more than my budget.
Alas, I stole some “inspiration nodes” from the desk I had my eyes on and decided to build one myself.
I started by mapping out my floor plan in Adobe Illustrator and then created all of my existing office furniture to scale. I used a simple ratio of 1 inch = 1 mm, which seemed to work pretty good. I tried a couple of different layouts and finally decided on the one included in the download file below.
Laying it out first in Illustrator allows you to figure out how much wood you are going to need and how to make slight alterations to your desk to trim material costs. By shaving a few inches off the depth of my desk I was able to fit it all on two sheets of plywood.
Ready to start?
Below I’ve compiled a list of materials and tools that I used to build my creative workspace. The whole project ended up being around $250 when I was done, and basically took me a week to do. (I continued to run the business out of a spare bedroom upstairs.)
- 2 sheets of 4’ × 8’ × ¾” finished plywood (birch)
- ¾” pre-glued veneer edging (birch)
- Table legs from IKEA
- 1 can of Minwax Polycryllic
- Lots of sandpaper
- Desk grommets for cord wire management
- Skill saw (make sure to use a sharp plywood blade!)
- Jig saw
- Household iron (check with wife first)
Basic Tips & Advice
- Let Home Depot slice the bread. Most Home Depot stores (and other major hardware stores) have a huge vertical saw that’ll cut through plywood with minimal splintering. I didn’t realize how good of a thing this was until I made a cut with my skill saw and butchered one end of the desk. If you can’t get Home Depot to make the major straight cuts, invest in a new plywood blade… makes a huge difference.
- Use a sharp hole saw drill bit. I borrowed a hole saw from my father, and not only did it take 45 minutes to “burn” a hole through my desk, but I also killed my brand new drill in the process.
- Measure twice, cut once. Simple advice imparted to me early on by my father.
- The devil is in the edging. Applying a pre-glued veneer edging with an iron is super easy and makes a huge difference. I picked up a roll of 50’ of the stuff for around $10 at Home Depot. I had never used it before, but the “iron on” instructions seemed simple enough. Just be sure any corners on your desk aren’t too tight, as you may have a hard time getting the iron in there (my chair cutouts were just a little too tight). After completing my desk, I saw a tool in a Lee Valley catalouge that actually trims the excess veneer off. A palm sander works well, too.
- Finishing touches take time. I used a pre-stain wood conditioner to make sure the grain would be fairly consistent on the surface of the desk. I didn’t really want my desk to look like a piece of plywood, but rather something you’d find at IKEA. I have no idea if the conditoner really helped or not, but I was lucky enough to get the look I was going for. After the conditioner I added four or five coats of polycryllic, and it probably could have used more. Don’t rush this part… you’ll kick yourself later if you do.
- Don’t forget anti-glare positioning. When positioning your workstation make sure to factor in any windows and the direction the sunlight filters into the room. You’ll want to keep your monitor facing the opposite direction. Or break out the wallet and invest in some blinds.
What designer doesn’t see a completed project and spot things that could have been done differently, better, easier, etc? I’m no different. So if you have any additional tips, suggestions, or even photos of your own workspace, please share.
ABOUT THE AUTHORJesse Bennett-Chamberlain is the owner of 31Three and will be happy to receive any Google points he can get from that link. Jesse resides in Ontario, Canada, and reminds the Yanks that his latitude is approximately equal to that of California.
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